2014 NFL Draft: One Last 2014 NFL Mock Draft

Dan Kitchen, Staff Writer

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The NFL Draft is but a couple hours away, and speculation is running rampant, especially given the additional time now that the draft has been moved back. One of the best draft classes in years has several elite talents fighting to be the first overall pick; one of those prospects may very well be the best defensive prospect we see for some time. Three quarterbacks could go as high as first overall, or face a rapid free fall into later rounds. This has been the most unpredictable draft lead-up I have faced as a writer, and for the first time, I don’t even have the candidates for first overall narrowed down to two. My current lists stands tentatively at six, and could increase or decrease between now and when the Texans are officially announced as on the clock. I also added a few trades to this mock draft, something I typically attempt to avoid. But, given how unpredictable this draft appears to be, I felt it appropriate to make an exception this time. So, until the real thing kicks off, here is my final 2014 NFL mock draft.

 

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Generally speaking, when a team goes 2-14 and trades away a quarterback who used to be their starter, it’s assumed that they will use the first overall pick on the best signal-caller in the draft. While there are three good options for that pick, Jadeveon Clowney is not something that comes along all that often. The way the draft is looking, quarterbacks stand a good chance of sliding down the board, at least far enough that Houston could trade up to get one twenty picks later. I believe Houston will actively shop this pick until the last possible second, but for the ransom they are asking, and seeing how poorly Washington ended up after making such a trade for Robert Griffin III, they hold on to the pick, draft the once-in-a-generation defensive monster, and look for a chance to trade up and get a quarterback near the end of the first.

2. St. Louis Rams (from WSH): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

The trade market for St. Louis will thrive or die depending on what the Texans do at #1. If they pass on Clowney, the Rams will have everyone begging to trade with them. If Clowney is gone, teams will sit on their haunches and see who falls to them. The Rams also pick at 13, but by that point, the elite receivers (Watkins and Mike Evans) will be long gone, where as there is a chance another position of need, perhaps offensive tackle, will still have a top-tier prospect remaining. St. Louis has brought in several young, talented receivers, but the chance to add Watkins is something no team should pass over, regardless of existing personnel.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Many will be surprised to see Evans go this high, and I almost slotted Khalil Mack here. But if Watkins goes this early, Jacksonville will be weighing the odds, and seeing they can replace Justin Blackmon, who continues to cause problems, with a talent like Evans will be awfully tempting. Evans won’t be able to single-handedly change the Jaguars pitiful offense, but he is a key component to doing so. Either Evans or Mack would be a good pick here, and there is depth at both positions heading into rounds two and three.

4. TRADE: CLE gets ATL Rounds 1,2,6; ATL gets CLE Rounds 1,4; Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Atlanta and Cleveland have done first-round business before – last time they did, Atlanta got playmaker Julio Jones. If Mack slips past Jacksonville, Atlanta, who needs a rusher, will see Oakland’s brass salivating. Cleveland should be looking elsewhere for their pick, and dropping two spots won’t cost them more than one of their options; thus, the cost will be cheap enough for Atlanta to pull the trigger. Atlanta gets their prized rusher before Oakland can swipe him up, and Cleveland gains another early second round pick to help speed up their rebuild.

5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

If Khalil Mack goes one pick before Oakland, I dare say it should destroy a good portion of GM Reggie McKenzie’s draft board. I don’t think Oakland needs an offensive tackle, at least not as much as other positions. But if this is the situation they are left with at #5, I don’t think they trade, and instead go with one of the few elite prospects left. While it may not be their biggest position of need, Robinson will certainly help whatever quarterback is starting for Oakland next season.

6. Cleveland Browns (from ATL): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Having traded with Atlanta, Cleveland now has an additional first-rounder and two early second round picks to work with. They can wait and get their quarterback at 26, or trade up should a run of passers start. That means Cleveland can reach on a player if they want, and they may feel compelled to do so with all of the teams behind them (Detroit, Buffalo, Jets) that have been linked to moving up for receivers. While not considered as elite as Watkins or Evans, OBJ has been rising up boards as the third best receiver in the class, and if Evans goes as high as I predict, teams will need to go higher to get Beckham. Needing a complement to Josh Gordon, a reach is understandable for the Browns.

7. TRADE: TB gets MIA Rounds 1,3, 2015 2; MIA gets TB Round 1, 2015 4;

Miami Dolphins: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

If the draft does indeed go this way, many teams will be scrambling to trade back, where the prospects at positions of need will still be there, and they can gain an extra pick or two. Tampa missed out on their receivers and pass rushers, both of which will be available at 19. Miami needs a new offensive tackle after the Martin-Incognito scandal, and Matthews is an elite-level prospect who could make a formidable tackle tandem with free agent acquisition Branden Albert.

8. TRADE: MIN gets STL Rounds 1,2; STL gets MIN Round 1,4; St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

St. Louis’ biggest need is at offensive tackle. Drafting at #2, it is hard to pass up a talent like Sammy Watkins; the consequence of that pick though is that if a run of offensive tackles goes, the Rams have to trade up to grab one. Lewan may have at one point slipped well below Matthews & Robinson, but he has the potential to be better than both of them, and the Rams will have given quarterback Sam Bradford one of his best chances to win yet.

9. Buffalo Bills: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

Similarly to St. Louis before them, Buffalo’s biggest need is also offensive tackle. The other needs they have, the biggest being tight end and safety, can’t be justified as well in the top 10 as Martin can. If the Bills wish to end their run of futility, they need to protect their new franchise QB, and Martin will be a step in the right direction.

10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosely, LB, Alabama

At this point in the draft, with the biggest prospects gone, trades should begin to slow down. Detroit wanted a receiver, but with that option gone, the pick could jump to the other side of the ball. Having invested in drafting cornerbacks previously, and signing safety James Ihedigbo from Baltimore, it seems unlikely they will further add players there. A position that at the very least could use more depth is linebacker, and Mosely, while starting out as a situational player, should supplant one of the starters within a couple seasons. His leadership and playing abilities are those of a starter.

11. Tennessee Titans: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Call it a hunch, but I think Tennessee gives Jake Locker one more chance to be “their guy”. The quarterback crop next year is talented enough they know they can start over if it doesn’t work out. If quarterback isn’t their pick, and no running back is worth an early first round pick, the next biggest need is cornerback. Having their choice of the entire crop, I think Justin Gilbert gets the pick.

12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

The Giants once-proud pass rush is in a state of rebuild, and a forceful presence in the middle to join Cullen Jenkins could expedite the process. Donald absolutely dominated the college ranks, and has a very legitimate shot of becoming one of the best defensive tackles in the league rather early on. Tight end Eric Ebron is an option, but if Donald falls to them, the Giants would be foolish not to grab him.

13. Minnesota Vikings (from STL): Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Having completed an earlier trade with St. Louis, Minnesota has two early second round picks, which they can use to trade back into the first for a quarterback if necessary. Not long ago, Barr was neck-and-neck with Khalil Mack for who should be drafted earlier. The potential is there, and if he develops to reach it, Barr could be a steal at 13.

14. Chicago Bears: Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

The Bears used to be among the defense leaders every season, but last year was a very poor performance by their standards. Adding younger bodies to an aging secondary is a start, and Clinton-Dix is the best safety in this draft. He isn’t a headhunter in the passing lanes, but he gets the job done, which is exactly what is needed of him in the Windy City.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Pittsburgh has gone with a pass rusher in two of the last three drafts, and continue to add depth to their offensive line in later rounds. Free agency has hurt their receiving department, and done no favors to their secondary either. They drafted Markus Wheaton and Shamarko Thomas last year to groom as starters at receiver and safety, but acquisitions William Gay and Cortez Allen are not performing like the starters the team needs them to be. Fuller is close with Dennard to be the pick here, but I think the team picks Fuller, if nothing else, for his slight height advantage. Today’s defenses want cornerbacks as tall as possible.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

Dallas just gave quarterback Tony Romo an unwise six-year contract extension. Now they are being linked to drafting Johnny Manziel. Despite the recent buzz, I just don’t think any team can be that unintelligent. Committing over $50 million guaranteed and then drafting a competitor in the first round is not a good environment for success, financially or competitively. A much smarter one to make is to draft one of the defensive ends still remaining in this class. The team just lost end Jason Hatcher, and replacing him is key if the team wants to stop anyone next season. Ford was a Senior Bowl riser, and will compete with Kony Ealy and Stephon Tuitt to be the second end drafted (behind Jadeveon Clowney).

17. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

It may not seem practical, drafting a safety in the first round two years in a row. But imagine this: Baltimore has historically won based on its defense, and now they have a pair of fearsome attackers in Matt Elam and Calvin Pryor patrolling the field for years to come. That is a scary thought for opposing teams, especially with the growing rise in almost strictly pass-reliant offenses.

18. New York Jets: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The popular pick for the Jets is a receiver, but the team signed Eric Decker. Another pick is tight end, and Eric Ebron is still available. A third strong need is cornerback, where journeyman Dimitri Patterson and disappointment Kyle Wilson are competing to start. Tight end Jeff Cumberland just signed a new deal, and between the two spots, I think the Jets look at defense first. Dennard is the third of three cornerbacks competing for the top spot at the position, and I don’t think the Jets will complain about his availability at 18. They can target one of the many receivers available in round two, and a tight end later on.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from MIA): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

It became apparent after the team traded starter Mike Williams to Buffalo that Tampa Bay was targeting one of the draft’s numerous receivers as a new starter alongside Vincent Jackson. Jackson is the gigantic #1 target that draws the tallest and best defenders, and Cooks can be the speed guy that takes advantage of the open spaces Jackson creates. Even though it is rumored the Bucs want a new quarterback to take the reins soon, the signing of Josh McCown and promise Mike Glennon began to show can stave off the drafting of one in the first round (at least for one more year).

20. Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

It is between Shazier and a quarterback. The “big pick” is go after Johnny Manziel, or perhaps Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater. The safe, typical pick is to get someone at a position of need who gets to play from game one, not sit for a year behind Carson Palmer. The starting outside linebackers in Arizona are either close to retirement (John Abraham) or relatively inexperienced (Matt Shaughnessy). Shazier can supplant Shaughnessy if need be, or provide depth until Abraham is gone.

21. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC

I don’t say this often, because in the NFL Draft this description is not often said: this just makes sense. Green Bay needs a starting tight end that can break defenses. Eric Ebron is the top tight end in this class. The other need that could rival tight end in Green Bay, safety, has much more depth in this class than tight end does. Everything just clicks for this pick, which is a beautiful rarity on draft day.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Yet another team linked to Johnny Manziel that makes no sense. You don’t replace a quarterback who just threw 29 touchdowns (27 regular season) and only 2 interceptions. The secondary and defensive line are both shaky for a playoff team, but there are more quality players in the secondary. Tuitt can start at defensive end, move to defensive tackle if need be, and provide help at whichever position needs it most.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

The Chiefs have not had a great one-two punch at receiver for some time. Even when they had Tony Gonzalez, it wasn’t a true tandem (Gonzalez played tight end). His name may not be mentioned with the other top receiver prospects, Watkins & Evans, but I strongly believe Lee can end up the best of them all. He has stud receiver potential, and the Chiefs would be getting a steal this late in the round.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Cincinnati has tried this before. Safe to say Dre Kirkpatrick has not lived up to expectations. The chance to make up for that pick is now. Roby can study for a year under Leon Hall and Terence Newman, then become Leon Hall’s partner for years to come. Another option is TCU’s Jason Verrett, but injury concerns are pushing his stock down.

25. TRADE: SD gets Rounds 2,3,6 (via OAK) from HOU; HOU gets Round 1 from SD;

Houston Texans: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

If this draft goes in this direction, it will be a shame that three great quarterback prospects go this late in the draft. Johnny Football has half the league in love with him, and if given the chance to jump back into the late first to grab him, Bill O’Brien would be as happy as a kid on Christmas. He gets his quarterback that attempts to turn this team around.

26. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

It’s a toss-up between Bortles and Bridgewater, and if I were a GM picking, it would give me gray hairs trying to pick one or the other. This is more based on hunch than detailed critical analysis, but either option has one of the best chances to lead Cleveland to success that a quarterback has been given in many years.

27. New Orleans Saints: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The Saints could use some depth on defense as a whole. Their pass defense was ranked second in the league, and they just added one of the best free agent safeties in a while. Why not use your first round pick to add a pass rushing prospect? Ealy can join a group of rushers, and fight to earn a starting role over one of them.

28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Cam Newton must feel horrible. His offensive tackles and receivers have been depleted to the point that he may very well be doing voodoo rituals to get his team to draft more of them. Moses was thought to be picked a little earlier than this, and he will likely start a game or two his rookie year. Carolina can focus on the plethora of receivers in this class in the following rounds.

29. New England Patriots: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

A bit of a wild card selection, but I don’t know how confident New England is in last year’s third round pick Duron Harmon. With fewer needs than most teams, the Patriots can experiment in the draft, and if they don’t trade out of this slot, Ward can be a surprise pick that ends up starting for the team for years to come. The team converted Devin McCourty from cornerback to safety, so the possibility of playing Ward somewhere else is not entirely out of the question either.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Jason Verrett would be rated much higher if he were a couple inches taller and did not have any injury concerns. San Francisco, not needing many players this offseason, can draft players like Verrett, work with them, and help them reach their full potential. Verrett could become a great cornerback for the 49ers, especially if given a year to develop.

31. Denver Broncos: Kyle Van Noy, CB, BYU

Going through Denver’s depth chart, the only major weakness I saw was in the linebacking corps. The way Denver has been building their team, they will know their biggest weakness, and address it from their very first pick. Van Noy is a player who could start as a back-up intended for depth, and end up outworking everyone else en route to a starting job on a contending team.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

Seattle doesn’t have to worry about their defense. They bring back a unit that thoroughly humiliated opposing offenses. Given the lack of receiving depth the team has, they can afford to use a first round pick on a receiver that may or may not pan out. Latimer became the “flavor of the month” and shot up draft boards, and may work out to be Seattle’s #2 receiver, replacing Golden Tate, who left in free agency.

 

I don’t know how much the actual draft will follow this, but I do know that it will be in no way predictable. And, for those of you who are quarterback-crazy and wonder where the third top quarterback Blake Bortles would have gone in this one, I had him tentatively falling to Tampa Bay at 38.

I hope everyone enjoys draft day, and God bless!

– Dan

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